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Charpoy Chindit (Stroud Green)

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The Fall of Malaya and Singapore: Images of War
The Fall of Malaya and Singapore: Images of War
by Jon Diamond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Images of War The Fall of Malaya and Singapore by Jon Diamond, 7 Jun. 2015
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This is, in many ways, a very poor book, but, despite the one-star review that follows, I suspect that everyone will buy it anyway. My only hope is that the publisher may take some of the following criticisms on board.
Let me explain.

This is another volume in the familiar ‘Images of War’ series.
It follows the normal format, a brief introduction followed by five narrative chapters and an epilogue. Interspersed between the chapters are the photographic sections, in broad chronological/topical groups.
There are a couple of maps and they are quite good (despite the Changi error – the airfield was constructed during the Japanese occupation).
There are no notes, and it seems that no bibliography or reading list was deemed necessary.

The author demonstrates a poor style of writing. Clunky and awkward at best, it is downright incomprehensible at worst. It reminds me of scrappy schoolboy homework; it needed a lot more work before it was handed in.
The text is also quite repetitive; I certainly grew quite bored by the constant mention of the Buona Vista and Johore Batteries and their limitations. The normal Malayan campaign clichés abound.

The real problem is that the author doesn’t seem to have complete command of the subject, and this he demonstrates over and over again.
There are numerous errors. Here are a few examples.

His grasp of the geography is laughable, as the introduction proves, for it seems that in Malaya “…waterways make their way from the mountains to the sea…” Really! We also learn that “The Straits of Johore, named after the Sultan of Johore”. Presumably the English Channel is named after the King of England.

The author provides confused, and confusing, dates and times. On page 72 he states that the Kota Bahru landing was being opposed “…a few hours later…” than 04.00 08/12/41 (crucially, perhaps, to an American, later than the Pearl Harbor attack). The timings are wrong and the International Dateline seems to have confused him, too. On page 73 it is stated that “…by midnight of 8th December…” the airfield at Kota Bahru had been captured. Is that midnight 7th-8th or midnight 8th-9th?

There are inconsistent references to the numbers of the opposing forces. This is perhaps not surprising since most accounts use the comparative size of the forces involved either as a basis for criticism, or as an excuse. Nevertheless his failure to deal with this issue represents a missed opportunity for useful analysis, and further confusion is the only result. On page 27 he refers to the surrender of 85,000 troops at Singapore, not including the 45,000 surrendered on the Malayan peninsula! 45,000? On page 72 the Japanese 25th Army is 60,000 strong but by page 156 “…the Japanese had to do battle with only 30,000 men.”

The Malayan campaign saw a difficult series of command changes and Diamond has not mastered them. Pownall is referred to as deputy commander ABDA, when he was in fact he was Wavell’s Chief of Staff. It is also implied that he took over as CinC Far East in November 1941, rather than on 27/12/41. There are constant references to Field Marshal Wavell, but he was a General until 1943. Worse still is the reference to Brigadier-General Stewart. Americans, eh! There are also repeated references to Heath having “…commanded the victorious 11 Indian Division in the Eritrean campaign.” He didn’t. One of the salient points of the Malayan campaign is that none of the Commonwealth formations had seen action before.

The book includes no Order of Battle, so the reader will have to look elsewhere to disprove such statements as;
Page 30 “Percival deployed his three British and Indian army divisions and three separate brigades…”
Page 117 By December 1941 the army “…was short two of its requested six infantry divisions.”
Page 121 “…mixed in with the brigades of 11 Indian Division were three regular British Army battalions…” This shows a lamentable ignorance of Indian Army organization.
Page 120 “Yamashita’s infantry was reinforced by an armoured division…” Where this idea came from I cannot say.

These are serious errors, and there are many more. Worse still there is no new information or analysis that might compensate for these deficiencies.

The photo quality is OK. The choice is a mix of the familiar and the less so, mostly from US sources (the author is American). That may be the source of some of the caption problems. Unfortunately the captions lack detailed references.

Unsurprisingly, given the above criticisms, there are many serious errors in the author’s captions. A large number simply state that which is obvious, but many are just plain wrong. Far too many state that which may have seemed obvious to the author but which are nevertheless wrong.

An example of stating the obvious on page 11; “A British infantry section on patrol crosses a wooden pontoon bridge over a Malayan river.” What does that add to what you can see for yourself – nothing!

It would be tiresome to catalogue all of the incorrect captions, but here are a few examples.
The captions to the Japanese photographs, in particular, should not be trusted. Many don’t seem to be from Malaya at all, but from China, Burma, and elsewhere. Page 135 shows a “Type 92 tank” assaulting a Malayan village. Since it is actually a Type 89, a type that was not used in Malaya, can we assume it is actually assaulting a Chinese village? The author seems to have no ability to identify Japanese tanks; almost every identification he makes is wrong. Sadly, the same is true of their artillery, small arms, etc., etc.

He is not much better with British kit. There is a nice description of a 3.7” AA gun on page 41, marred only by the fact that it is not a 3.7” AA gun at all. On the next page there is an equally nice photo of a Bren Gun on an AA mounting. Shame that the picture was taken in the Middle East. The “Bren Gun” on page 63 is actually a fine photograph of a Vickers-Berthier LMG. Page 51 has a detailed description of the Lanchester armoured car, so it is a pity that the accompanying picture shows Marmon-Herringtons instead.

He is clearly equally unfamiliar with Indian and Malayan forces. On page 38 he refers to the inexperienced “Federated Malay States Regiment”. There was no such thing; these are regulars of the Malay Regiment. The 9th Gurkha Rifles are repeatedly referred to as the 9th Gurkha Regiment, and they now seem to have Warrant Officers, too. The Straits Settlements Volunteer Force is re-named the “Singapore Straits Volunteer Force”. Close enough, I guess!

These errors extend to the air force photos. Page 47 has 453 Sqn RAAF Buffalos misidentified as 454 Sqn. This error would have been easier to spot had the photo not been reversed. Page 67 has a picture of Blenheim I in flight “…over Tengah airfield en route to its new base at Alor Star…”
The problem is that the squadron code is YX, which belonged to 54 OTU RAF. They did fly the Blenheim I, but never left the UK. It is amazing how much English hedgerows look like Malayan terrain, isn’t it? Was that caption made up on the spot, or was it the archive’s error?

This same lack of familiarity leads to misidentification of some important personalities. See the photos of Wavell (as CinC India!) inspecting with Brooke-Popham. That isn’t Brooke-Popham.

If this bloke was simply a hack author perhaps it would be understandable, if not forgivable, but, the blurb tells us, Diamond is “a keen collector of wartime images.” Keen, maybe, but completely lacking in analytical skills!

This is a photo book; everyone with an interest in the campaign will buy it, despite its shortcomings. Perhaps the publisher can reflect on these criticisms and, in future, choose authors who know their subjects and can write. Perhaps a better editor would be a good idea, too. It seems inconceivable to me that all of these errors slipped through without comment.
The concept of this book is fine, and the photos are mostly OK; if I were the publisher of this book I would pulp the remaining copies and employ a knowledgeable author and a good editor to do a re-write. That is not going to happen, so, if you are interested in this campaign, buy the book. Just don’t bother to read the text. There are plenty of good accounts of the loss of Malaya, read one of those instead. By all means look at the pictures, but don’t trust those captions.
What a missed opportunity – one-star.

Chindit vs Japanese Infantryman: 1943-44 (Combat)
Chindit vs Japanese Infantryman: 1943-44 (Combat)
by Jon Diamond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Combat 1943-44 Chindit Versus Japanese Infantryman by Jon Diamond, 10 May 2015
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I have previously avoided the Osprey “Combat” series, but, given the subject matter, I thought I should give this one a try. The gimmicky “A versus B” format seems designed for the purposes of regurgitation; especially so in this case, since Osprey have already published books on both the Chindits and the Japanese infantryman. The format already lacks space, and so it seems questionable to shoehorn two subjects into one in this manner. It is difficult to identify the target audience, but I suppose that poor publishers/authors/illustrators must eat.

Gimmick it may be, but the author does what he can within the limitations of the format. A brief introduction attempts to orientate the reader before moving on to a topical examination of the opposing forces. There is not enough space to provide a meaningful account of the development of the theory of Long Range Penetration or give more than a cursory account of Japanese infantry operations. From here we move on to the heart of the book, which consists of accounts of three Chindit actions; Nankan, Pagoda Hill and Mogaung. It is here that we encounter a major problem; how typical were these engagements and what do they tell us about the development and application of LRP tactics? Not that much, I would suggest, and perhaps even less is revealed about the Japanese response.
Nankan – as author admits – was atypical; a decision to stand and fight to cover railway demolitions. This may have been a successful small action, but there is little analysis of that which was achieved - the railway demolition itself. Surely, an air attack or the insertion of a small special operations team would have been equally effective, without the requirement to risk a whole brigade.
Chindit I was intended as a hit and run operation, and so most actions were brief and often accidental, but I suppose that tales of wandering around in the jungle hoping for a supply drop does not make for a good Osprey book, and does not provide suitable illustrations.
Another problem is that Chindit II (Pagoda Hill and Mogaung) was a significantly different operation to Chindit I (Nankan) in intention, scale, and tactics. Although there is some discussion of how some of the shortfalls of the first expedition were addressed in the second, perhaps it would have been better to stick to one or the other.
The detailed account of the action at Pagoda Hill is interesting, but once again how typical was it. It has been covered before, including in the previous Osprey Chindit book.
It might have been better to have examined some of the unique aspects of Chindit II in greater detail. The stronghold concept, with its success at Broadway and White City, and its failure at Blackpool, could have been given a more detailed examination, rather than yet another small action. Gallant though it was, it was little different from many others throughout the theatre, Chindit or otherwise.
The choice of Mogaung is equally problematic, as the author admits. Wingate was dead and the Chindits had been placed under American command. They were misused at Mogaung, in a role that really required regular infantry and heavier weapons. This battle tells us very little about anything specifically ‘Chindit’, except to demonstrate their ability to improvise in a role for which they were neither organized nor equipped. This is a recognized limitation of special forces, and one that went a long way to undermine the whole concept and eventually to justify their disbandment.
I would have preferred to have seen a more detailed analysis of tactics and weapons, and how they differed from normal infantry operations. Wingate’s development of the column organization, and its subsequent abandonment, might also have been profitably discussed at greater length.
The Japanese ability to counter Chindit incursions is not really addressed – particularly since their successes, such as Blackpool, are not included here.

The book is not without its mistakes. References to Kum Singh Gurung and, worse still, Subedar Singh show an unfamiliarity with the Indian Army and indicate an over-reliance on previously published works and their errors.

The choice of photographs is not bad, including as it does several somewhat less familiar shots from US sources. Many of the photographs are too small, and their captions are far too long – have a look at the one on page 18. Worse still is the one on page 16; the inference may be drawn that this is a picture of Chindits, but, while the caption discusses Chindit march discipline at length, it provides absolutely no information about the photograph itself. My idea of a perfect caption is; who, when and where.
The author’s misapprehensions have led to the inclusion of some errors.
The photograph on page 30 is about the best image of the modified Chindit pack – a large pack with a pair of basic pouches sewn on – that I have seen. Unfortunately the author seems to think that it shows the metal-framed Everest pack. It does not.

I am not generally a fan of the maps in Osprey books, but at least this one avoids the now common 3-D birds-eye views. The map on page 7, which attempts to show both campaigns at once, is particularly useless. I rather like the maps of the three actions under discussion and they are certainly better than average, although a larger map of Henu might have been a good idea.

This book uses the same illustrator as the previous Chindit volume, Peter Dennis. Clearly he does not read these reviews (who does?) and so is happy to make the same mistakes over again. Some of the errors are minor; for example, the unrealistic pose of the Bren-gunner on page 14. He also seems to have misunderstood the method of wearing the Senninbari on page 20. Some errors are more serious. The 1943 Chindit on page 14 is illustrated wearing green trousers. The caption asserts that these were dyed KD, but no evidence of this is provided.
I’m not sure what the 1944 Chindits are supposed to be wearing on page 66-67, but it is wrong. There are also carrying the wrong type of rifle. These basic errors could have been avoided had the illustrator made a closer study of the available photographs, even the ones in this book. Look at the typically-attired Chindit on page 43 and see if you can spot the difference.
I’m still not sure of the intended target audience for this book, but I suspect that it will include a fair number of modellers, wargamers and re-enactors. These are groups that tend to treat Osprey books as bibles, and are likely to pass such unforgivable errors down through the generations.

Even though there is not much here that is new in terms of information or analysis, the text and maps would probably merit a slightly better than average four-star review, but I’m still not convinced of the value of the “Combat” format and the book is seriously let down by the illustrations. Three-stars.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2015 7:33 PM BST

Why the Japanese Lost: The Red Sun's Setting
Why the Japanese Lost: The Red Sun's Setting
by Bryan Perrett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.94

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why The Japanese Lost The Red Sun's Setting by Bryan Perrett, 12 July 2014
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I freely admit that this is all my fault, for I did not read the description of this book carefully enough before purchase. I saw the title and was familiar with the author Bryan Perrett from his book `Tank Tracks To Rangoon', and jumped to the conclusion that there might be something in this for me. I was wrong, but perhaps I can stop you from making the same mistake.
The title of this book at least implies some analysis of why the Japanese lost the Second World War, but you will not find that here. What you will get is a fast-paced, competently-written, but very selective, narrative account of Japanese military history. It concentrates on naval actions, such as Tsushima and Leyte Gulf, but it does not even pretend to be an overall or detailed analysis of the causes of Japanese defeat. It perhaps should simply have been titled `The Japanese Lost!' There is little analysis and no new information nor insight to be found here. The text is not troubled with footnotes. There is a very brief bibliography of secondary works which, if you were to read them all, might enable you to write a very similar book to this.
I can see that the author will have profited from this exercise; I am equally sure that the sausage-machine that is Pen & Sword Military will be happy with its product, but I cannot see that this book will be of much use to anyone else. It certainly wasn't to me, and therefore I cannot recommend it in any way.

Chinese Save Brits - in Burma: (Battle of Yenangyaung)
Chinese Save Brits - in Burma: (Battle of Yenangyaung)
by Gerald Fitzpatrick
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Chinese Save Brits - in Burma: (Battle of Yenangyaung) by Gerald Fitzpatrick, 2 Feb. 2014
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This is a truly awful book. It is a well produced book, but it shares the faults of many self-published works, being very poorly written and far, far too long. A good editor might have cut it down to a manageable size, but it still wouldn’t really be worth reading. The author is far too pleased with himself and at the same time angry with almost everyone else. If you insist that I make a positive comment, then I would say that I’m impressed that a man of over 90 years of age retains the desire, and ability, to be this upset so long after the events described. His idea of balance seems to be a chip on each shoulder. His main targets are Churchill, Alexander and the British Officer class in general, but few others escape unscathed. These criticisms seem to repeat on almost every page, but none are particularly convincing, or credible. Mountbatten, Wavell, Smyth, Wingate, Calvert, Roosevelt, Americans, etc. all receive the same treatment, and only Slim seems to escape. He was Saint Bill, after all. Nevertheless the author inexplicably picks on Slim’s son, and his recent biographer, Robert Lyman, too, with no justification that I can see.
It would be pointless, and exhausting, to list all of the errors, inaccuracies and plain embarrassments that this book contains; suffice to say that it will be of little value to anyone but the most hardcore of Burma war enthusiasts, who will already have his previous book, anyway. I had hoped that there would be more information on the Chinese Army in Burma, as implied by the awful title, but I’m sorry to say that being associated with this account is unlikely to lead to a re-evaluation of their role in the campaign.
Readers interested in the retreat from Burma have many books from which to choose; Lyall-Grant & Tamayama’s ‘Burma 1942 The Japanese Invasion’ is probably the best. Those seeking a decent memoir of a KOYLI officer during the retreat are strongly advised to seek out Tanner’s excellent ‘Burma 1942 Memories of a Retreat’. There certainly is need for a full-length critical account of Churchill’s role in the war against Japan, but if one exists I am not aware of it. In the interim there is an interesting article ‘Did Winston Matter?’ by Raymond Callahan in ‘The Indian Army, 1939-47 Experience and Development’ by Jeffreys.
It pains me to criticize an old soldier in this manner, but this account should never have been published and I can see no good reason to buy, or read, this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 14, 2014 5:07 AM BST

Fighting with the Fourteenth Army in Burma: Original War Summaries of the Battle Against Japan 1943-1945
Fighting with the Fourteenth Army in Burma: Original War Summaries of the Battle Against Japan 1943-1945
by James Luto
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fighting with the Fourteenth Army in Burma: Original War Summaries of the Battle Against Japan 1943-1945 by James Luto, 11 Dec. 2013
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"After the defeat of the Japanese these divisions compiled a summary of its actions and it is these unique documents that form the basis of this new book. Presented here together then for the first time is the story of war against the Japanese as told by each of the divisions that fought in that bitter conflict - the original and authentic accounts untouched by the pens of historians."
This is a very disappointing book. Having read the above pre-publication blurb I was anticipating a detailed and comprehensive account of the 14 Army's campaigns, based on previously unpublished documents. This is nothing of the sort. The bulk of the book is nothing more than a compilation of a series of post-war booklets published by the Public Relations Directorate G.H.Q. India and PR Services (West Africa). These account for ten of the thirteen chapters of this book, and are reprinted without comment. They are indeed `untouched by the pens of historians'. Despite the fact that the author/compiler describes these as `almost unobtainable', they are not in fact that rare. The original booklets, which are certainly worth seeking out, are of a quite charming format, crowded as they are with photographs, drawings and maps. Here all of that is stripped away, and we are left with the brief and selective PR text. Had they decided to publish the entire series as a facsimile reprint, thus retaining some of the charm of the originals, it might have had some justification, but I can find none here.
There are no equivalent booklets for the British and East African divisions of 14 Army, and that gave the author/compiler a problem. 36 Division has been accounted for by utilizing the text, without any acknowledgement that I can see, of another, slightly more substantial, book, but that account concentrates on their North Burma campaign, and makes no mention of their time in the Arakan. The Kohima Museum has provided a very brief account of 2 British Division's activities and the author/compiler states that the 11 East African Division's chapter has been compiled from 33 Corps summaries. I presume that is why it is virtually unreadable.
There is no mention of other formations such as Special Force, admittedly over-exposed in recent publications anyway, nor those that fought in Burma before the formation of 14 Army. This means that the book cannot even serve as a potted history of the war in Burma.
The book is rounded out with a reasonable photographic section and two appendices. The first is an Order of Battle, which confusingly includes formations not mentioned in the body of the text, such as Eastern Army and 14 Indian Division. It also includes the usual number of errors; 1 Hyderabad Regiment (for 1 Hyderabad Lancers), 12 Frontier Force Rifles MG battalion (no such unit, actually 12 Frontier Force Regiment MG Battalion), 14 Frontier Force Rifles in 88 Indian Brigade (they were actually in 100 Indian Brigade, this should be 14/12 Frontier Force Regiment), 8 Rajput in 55 Indian Brigade (they were converted to a Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment in 1942, 8/6 Rajputana Rifles is meant), etc. That is just the first page. I have to question whether someone who clearly cannot differentiate between the Frontier Force Regiment and the Frontier Force Rifles, and confuses the Rajput Regiment with the Rajputana Rifles should really be compiling an Indian Army order of battle.
Appendix II `Fourteenth Army Victoria Crosses' seems equally redundant, since all of these citations are easily available online or in print.
It is difficult to discern this book's target readership. It might be of some use to those new to the subject, hence the two-stars rather than one, although I would strongly advise such readers to try a general history of the war in Burma first, since I feel that this book, on it's own, might provide a distorted view.
Confirmed Burma enthusiasts will already have most of this information, in far better formats. I'm certainly not happy about paying £16.25 for something I have already read. To be honest, it all feels a bit shoddy and I consider that I have been mislead by the publisher and author/compiler.

Tactics of the Imperial Japanese Army
Tactics of the Imperial Japanese Army
by Bob Carruthers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tactics of the Imperial Japanese Army by Bob Carruthers, 8 Dec. 2013
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Despite the title, this is definitely not a history of Imperial Japanese Army tactics. It is merely a compilation of selected articles from the US official publication `Tactical and Technical Trends', which were originally issued between 1942 and 1943. All of these articles are easily available online in pdf format, and therefore, for most people, there is absolutely no reason to purchase this book.

The Kokoda Campaign 1942: Myth and Reality (Australian Army History Series)
The Kokoda Campaign 1942: Myth and Reality (Australian Army History Series)
by Dr Peter Williams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £34.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE KOKODA CAMPAIGN 1942 MYTH AND REALITY by PETER WILLIAMS, 28 July 2013
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This is an excellent book, certainly worthy of a five-star review, in common with most of the superlative series to which it belongs.

There are many accounts of the Kokoda track fighting available, so you may ask; why bother with this one? The book's subtitle provides the answer - `Myth and Reality'. Controversially, the author has identified what he considers to be a series of myths about the Kokoda campaign. He then proceeds with a detailed examination of each myth within his overall chronological account of the campaign. Unsurprisingly, this has proven contentious given the importance that Australians attach to the achievements of their forces - usually presented as a vastly outnumbered Australian force, inflicting more casualties than they received, and stopping the Japanese in their determined Port Moresby thrust, thereby saving Australia.
The author has re-examined all of these themes in great detail, making use of previously unused sources, especially Japanese, in order to make his case. He has been, for the most part, successful and any future works on this campaign will have to incorporate, or at least consider, his conclusions. This is especially true of his re-examination of the dynamics of Japanese operational planning. His detailed analysis of the troop numbers engaged on both sides is most impressive. There is much else here that is worthy of praise. For example, I greatly appreciated his discussion of the maps available to both armies; indeed, I now think every work of military history should include such a discussion. His chapter on Japanese artillery was equally eye opening, this arm perhaps providing the Japanese with a decisive advantage in the earlier battles. I was also surprised at the complete lack of Japanese mortars at this stage of the fighting, contradicting traditional accounts.

After reading the book, I was somewhat disappointed to find so little reaction to it. What is the point of iconoclasm if no one objects? Fortunately, James Bowen has obliged with a one-star review (How Peter Williams gets Kokoda wrong) in which he espouses some of the traditionalist views challenged by this book. He limits himself to two main criticisms; Japanese strategic and operational planning and the relative numbers engaged in the early battles.
On the first issue he seems to have read the book, but missed the point. No-one doubts that the capture of Port Moresby was one of the initial objectives of the Japanese campaign, but Williams clearly demonstrates that the change in Japanese priorities brought about by the US counter-offensive in the Solomons postponed, and eventually cancelled, the overland thrust towards Moresby. Bowen uses extensive quotes from the official histories to support his position without noticing that they all date from before the Guadalcanal landings. The dynamics of the situation seem to have escaped him.
He adopts a traditionalist position on the question of troop numbers engaged too, preferring to rely on older sources. Williams approach to this question seems painstaking and really quite impressive. His conclusions are that the Australian forces were rarely outnumbered in the Kokoda track fighting.
Many of Bowen's other criticisms just do not hold water. To describe this book as "...undermined by inadequate and/or very selective research, obscure references..." is laughable. Bowen's statement that "It is difficult to avoid an inference that his purpose appears to be to diminish the achievement and heroism of Australian soldiers..." is offensive. I certainly did not draw that inference, nor will any fair-minded reader.

This book is not just another narrative regurgitation of familiar events, but is an important work that challenges the reader to re-examine the issues. It is strongly recommended for that reason.
Buy the book, read it and make up your own mind.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2013 11:21 PM BST

Chindit Affair: A Memoir of the War in Burma
Chindit Affair: A Memoir of the War in Burma
by Frank Baines
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CHINDIT AFFAIR by FRANK BAINES, 12 Jan. 2012
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This is the memoir of a junior officer of 111 Indian Brigade headquarters, during the Chindit campaign of 1944. Unpublished at the author's death in 1987, it is well written, if slightly florid in style at times, and is extremely outspoken in both tone and content. This you may find challenging. I must admit my initial misgivings when I realised the significance of the double meaning of the title `Chindit Affair'. My doubts seem justified in the early chapters -- training in India -- when we learn that the author had fallen in love with his Gurkha orderly. Indeed, these early chapters do have a slight flavour of `It Ain't Half Hot Mum'. However, I am forced to admit that I was wrong. Baines' relationship with his orderly, or at least his version of their relationship, is absolutely central to this memoir. Once the brigade is behind enemy lines things begin to get a lot more serious. Initially Baines, in his somewhat privileged position as HQ defence platoon commander, retains his upbeat mood, but this begins to change once contact with the enemy is established. By the time we get to the Blackpool disaster, in which he was not directly involved, the full horror of the brigade's situation becomes clear. His own low point comes during the fighting for Point 2171, and it is here that we appreciate the true significance of his relationship with his orderly. What emerges is a heartbreaking and remarkably honest story.
A particularly interesting aspect of this memoir is the author's relationship with the Gurkhas of the brigade HQ defence platoons. He makes us vividly aware of the difficulties facing a lone British officer, commanding a group of men of whom he knows little. In many British officer's memoirs Indian and Gurkha troops appear almost as automatons, but here they appear as real people with their own very real problems.
His observations on the British officers of 111 Indian Brigade are equally interesting, particularly his description of Lentaigne's `breakdown'. Masters, with one significant exception, comes across as a somewhat stern and remote, headmaster-like, figure. This provides an interesting counterpoint to Master's own account `The Road Past Mandalay'. Richard Rhodes-James, whose own memoir `Chindit' is equally strongly recommended, provides the foreword to this book. In it he concludes by saying "Share my delight that war has so many faces" a sentiment that I can only echo. This is certainly not a conventional military memoir, but an important one nevertheless, and it is strongly recommended.

Japan's Last Bid for Victory: The Invasion of India, 1944
Japan's Last Bid for Victory: The Invasion of India, 1944
by Robert Lyman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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This book is not an attempt at a blow-by-blow account of the campaign. For one thing, it is too short, attempting to cover the entire Imphal-Kohima campaign in 265 pages. The last two major accounts of the battle of Kohima, alone, are more than twice this size. What you get is a well-written narrative of the major events and a synthesis of the available accounts of the campaign. The book is well structured and this is an achievement in itself, since the peculiar nature of the campaign works against a coherent narrative. The author has wisely used each chapter to concentrate on a specific area and time period. The chapter `War Comes to the Nagas' is perhaps the best, since it contains interesting accounts that throw a new light on the fighting around Kohima. A 25-page chapter might seem too much to devote to the activities of 23 Brigade, and, like many other books, may demonstrate an unfortunate, if understandable, tendency to concentrate on the British experience. In contrast, the heavy fighting of the predominantly Indian formations around Imphal may seem less significant.
For readers familiar with previous accounts of these battles there is not that much new material to be found here, but the book can be recommended as a starting point for anyone with a serious interest in this campaign.

It is a well-produced book, but not without its many errors. Japanese names are often inverted, and Japanese unit designations are often wrong. The author has also adopted the confusing practice of referring to Japanese battalions as, for example, III/214th Infantry Regiment, rather than III/214th Infantry Battalion.
The main text is not footnoted, nor end-noted, which makes it difficult to discern which account the author is following at some points.
The maps are particularly useless, but that seems to be the current trend. For example, the map of Imphal has no roads on it, which is a bit of an oversight given the importance of the roads in this campaign. The map of Kohima doesn't even name the features mentioned in the text.
The photographs are adequate, but represent a somewhat familiar selection, especially if you have read the author's previous book on Kohima. The exception is the excellent picture of Lancelot Perowne, which is almost worth the price of the book in itself.
The order of battle, Appendix 3, suffers from exactly the same carelessness that marked that in the author's previous book on Kohima. For example, 7th Indian Division is still missing. The Japanese OB is even worse, with all the infantry regiments of 15th and 33rd Divisions stripped of their third battalions for some reason. It would have been better to use the OB from the official history, which at least gives the composition of the attacking columns.

Not that bad, so far, but the real problems arise with the author's analysis of the campaign. Much of it can be agreed with, when it finally arrives in the penultimate chapter, but I believe this delay to be a mistake in itself. Much more needed to be said about the planning of the campaign, from both sides, at an earlier stage in the narrative. It is not made clear what the Japanese objectives really were. This might allow the reader to believe that the capture of Dimapur was part of the agreed plan of campaign. This leads to confusion when we reach the point where Sato's 31st Division fails to push on to Dimapur. Worse still, the author allows the reader to believe that this was indeed meant as an all-out invasion of India. Whatever the Japanese may have promised Bose and the I.N.A., they never had any intention of moving beyond Imphal and Kohima. There was never any prospect of a real invasion of India and the idea of the starving peasantry of Bengal rising in support of such an invasion is pure fantasy.

The author has written two previous books on Bill Slim. I am prepared to accept that Slim was the greatest British general of the Second World War, but, if so, this reputation must largely rest on his campaign for the reconquest of Burma in 1945. His performance in the campaign under discussion is certainly open to criticism. Not enough of it is to be found here. Responsibility for the near disaster that was 17th Indian Division's retreat from Tiddim to Imphal is not properly discussed. Neither is due consideration given to the failure to make adequate plans for the defence of Kohima and Dimapur. Slim himself admitted that this error was based on an expectation that only one Japanese regiment would attack Kohima. It is not made clear how Slim came to make such an error, but, even so, it is disingenuous to suggest that the last minute defences that were cobbled together would have been capable of defending against even a Japanese regiment. We are told that `Elephant Bill' was advised of the imminent Japanese offensive in early March, but that a commander for what is disparagingly referred to as an `odds and sods' garrison at Kohima was not appointed until the 22nd of March. Why was this? The gallantry of the Kohima Garrison, together with that of the parachute brigade at Sangshak, have caused us to overlook, and perhaps forgive, what amounts to a serious operational error on Slim's part. It might have been a decisive error. The author has mentioned, but not thoroughly examined, the question of the timing of the Japanese offensive. Had 15th Army's offensive commenced on time - while the Arakan offensive was still at its height - things might have been very different. There would have been no parachute brigade at Sangshak and no 5th Indian Division reinforcements to save Kohima. Under those circumstances, could Sato have been persuaded to push on to Dimapur? Would Kawabe have been happy? This is certainly what the British feared most, yet seemingly did so little to defend against. Much of this is not explained. Why, for example, was it possible to rush a division to defend Dimapur in early April, but not in early March?
Lastly, I must disagree with the author's final conclusion. In his last chapter, `Epilogue', he asserts that the Imphal-Kohima campaign stands alongside Stalingrad, Midway, and El Alamein, as one of the four greatest battles of the Second World War. Here I think he overestimates the strategic importance of this battle and he ultimately fails to make his case. This was not really intended as a true invasion of India, nor as a last bid for victory, but more as desperate bid to stave off defeat in Burma, which, for the Japanese, was far from a decisive theatre at this stage of the war. This is not to underestimate the importance of these battles to the British Commonwealth forces. This hard-fought campaign, and that which preceded it in the Arakan, were the turning points of the British war against Japan. Yet another defeat would have brought disaster, but these victories were to provide the stepping-stones to Slim's greatest victory - the reconquest of Burma in 1945, a victory that had hardly been conceivable before the Japanese had crossed the Chindwin.
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To Salamaua (Australian Army History Series)
To Salamaua (Australian Army History Series)
by Phillip Bradley
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TO SALAMAUA by Phillip Bradley, 21 May 2011
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This is a further volume in the uniformly excellent Cambridge University Press Australian Army History Series. If you have read either of Phillip Bradley's two previous, and equally highly recommended, volumes in the series `On Shaggy Ridge' and `The Battle for Wau', you will know what to expect.
Bradley deals with the broader strategic picture, clearly placing the operations against Salamaua, with which this book is concerned, within the larger context of the war in New Guinea, specifically the immediate prize - the capture of Lae.
That said, the real joy of the book is it's description of jungle warfare. It was an infantryman's war, there was little artillery, no armour and limited air support. The narrative concentrates on the platoon and company actions, the patrols, and the ambushes that demonstrate the true nature of jungle warfare. The author has neatly blended the official history with extensive accounts by those who were there. He does not neglect the Japanese perspective either, making good use of the available sources.
He has also made excellent use of photographs, both wartime from the AWM collection and modern photographs. The latter certainly help the reader get a feel for the terrain, and demonstrate that the author has seen the ground for himself. There are also plenty of maps, equally essential when describing actions which, in the hands of a lesser author, could be quite confusing.
This is a really excellent book, and a fine example of how military history should be written. It can be strongly recommended to all readers with an interest in the Commonwealth infantryman's war against the Japanese.

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